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5/26/2005
SPECIAL REPORT: Congress passes 30-day extension for Highway Bill

Both houses of Congress have authorized a 30-day extension of the existing spending authority for transportation programs from the Highway Trust Fund.

The extension is expected to be signed into law by President Bush before May 31, which is when the previous extension runs out.

What this means, according to Rod Nofziger, OOIDA's government relations representative, is that Congress now has until the end of June to hammer out a final version of the highway bill.

"This is just an extension of the current programs and not any other authorization," Nofziger said.

This is the latest of several extensions since the 1998 Highway Bill expired in September 2003. Each extension has continued the funding levels from the 1998 legislation.

Both the House and Senate have approved their own versions of the new Highway Bill, but the differences between the two bills must be resolved by a conference committee before the legislation can go to President Bush for final approval.

Both houses are expected to name their members of the conference committee by Friday, May 27.

Nofziger said the only drawback to the extension is that Congress will be on vacation the week of May 29, which will not leave them much time to work on the bill when they return on June 6.

"This will only leave about 19 days for conferees to get consensus language for the final version of the Highway Bill," he said.

- By Terry Scruton, senior writer
terry_scruton@landlinemag.com

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